Posted By Diane Shiffer on April 19, 2010
There is a homeless man who lives in our town… well, at least I think he’s homeless. Most people say that he is. Although someone told me he has an attic room somewhere on the east side of town, and that may be true. Someone else who knows someone who works in the bank says he has a fortune in a savings account, but that seems unlikely. Early in the mornings, he walks methodically up and down the streets, combing through the garbage and under hedges looking for empty bottles. When he finds one, he puts it into an old bowling bag that he carries over one arm. He wears the same jeans day in and day out and a denim shirt. In the winter he wears a puffy ladies’ ski jacket in those day-glo colors that were popular a couple of decades ago. It looks warm. When it’s especially cold, he adds a scarf wrapped around and around his head. I don’t know his name.
Years ago, when we had a puppy in the house, I happened to be outside one dusky fall morning. As I impatiently scuffled my feet through the dried maple leaves that were scattered over the driveway, he passed by. I impulsively called out to him. Would he do me a favor, I asked. I explained that we had this puppy, see. And we needed folks to interact with her… all kinds of folks, so that she would be well socialized. So that she would be a kind dog, a friendly dog. Would he mind taking just a moment to pet her and talk to her? He thought for a moment, then carefully put the bowling bag between his feet and bent down to the dog. As she jumped on him and licked his face, he laughed and told her she was a good girl. He told me about a cat he used to have. She was on a street corner, hurt and abandoned. She was all alone, and she would have died if he had not come by and found her.
“Can you imagine?” he said vehemently, “Can you imagine the cruelty of just leaving a poor animal to die like that? Who would do such a thing?”
He took that cat home and she was his friend for many years he said. “She was blessed that you found her,” I told him. He nodded.
“Thank you for…” he said gesturing vaguely towards the dog and the driveway and my feet. “Thank you for this.”
Since that day, we have had a sort of distant yet companionable acquaintance. During the summers when I have my morning quiet time on the front porch, I see him as he makes his way down our block on garbage pick-up day. Sometimes we chat briefly, sometimes we don’t. Somewhere along the way, I started leaving our family’s bottles out for him each week in a white plastic bag at the top of our porch steps. I often will leave him a muffin or bit of homemade something wrapped in brown paper or a brightly colored napkin. I try to time it so that he will find them warm.
Someday, I would love to be able to work in a foreign orphanage somewhere, rocking abandoned babies and showering them with love. Or I’d like to get my counseling degree and work with the abused and the abusive. I’d like to start a ministry for my sister-single-mamas. I’d like to do something big and grand for the Lord. Someday.
But for now, I’ll make muffins.